Green Ideology and Its Relation to Modernity: Including a Case Study of the Green Party of Sweden.
by Michael Moon
Reviewed by Angela Aylward, Green Party of Sweden (Miljˆpartiet de grˆna)
Biologist and former education officer in the Swedish Green Party Michael Moon has recently presented his thesis at the Department of Human Ecology of Lund University, Sweden. His study is a much-needed investigation into the international debate on green ideology and how the Swedish Greens over a number of years have dealt with green ideas. Moon deals with mainly two groups of questions:
1. Is there a “Green Ideology,” bearing in mind the various criteria as to what constitutes an ideology per se and what a green one, specifically, might entail?
2. To what extent are Green values held among the Swedish Greens? Has the party adjusted to a common political practice?
Since one of the criteria of what makes an ideology is that it has a collective dimension, Moon’s response to the first question is: No, there is no Green ideology, at least not yet. Ecofeminists, social ecologists, deep ecologists etc., all offer their versions of green ideology, but the movement as a whole is still far from reaching anything like a consensus on this matter.
Regarding the second group of questions, Moon describes the Swedish Greens as a party in transition, which on one hand is seeking to develop a well-formulated ideology and on the other hand is trying to build an organisation open to anyone who wishes to join it. As a consequence, many radical system-critics have become marginalized or have left the party.
Green parties should be wary of dualism
One of Moon’s conclusions is that the green movement should acquire a deeper understanding of what constitutes social progress by claiming their inheritance from Marxism, namely in the form of the Gramscian concept of praxis. Praxis, commonly construed as reflected action, has hitherto meant that material conditions of life interact with, and influence, human agency, thereby restricting the potentialities for social progress. According to Moon, what is needed is a broader view of praxis — a green praxis that moreover unequivocally distances itself from analytic constraints of a dualistic philosophy that has held sway since the time of Descartes. In his view it ought not to be possible to uphold an absolute dichotomy between values and facts, and between ideology and science. Instead, the mutual interrelationship between these categories should be construed as a complementary one. In other words: no facts without values and no values without facts.
Unfortunately, says Moon, Swedish greens have tended to view their ethics as separated from knowledge and this might explain why Green politicians renounce their ideals and give in to established politics. Ethical values are important; but as traditionally understood, ethics does not challenge the old dualistic perceptions of reality. Concepts that unite values and facts already exist, and Moon refers to these as ìthickî concepts; for example, concepts of ìmeanî or ìtoxic.î
Inspiration for politicians with ideological concerns
Moon’s dissertation is a unique reflection upon green ideas. Any Green politician who wishes to get an overview of the Green ideological debate and perhaps even contribute to a green praxis and to strategies for profound social change will benefit from Moon’s research.
What one might to some degree miss, though, is a deepened discussion of identity philosophy and psychological theories. The perspective of a green praxis would gain from a discussion of the psychosexual and psychosocial dimensions of human life. This kind of debate among greens usually appears in the setting of a discourse analysis, but this is a blind spot in Moon’s work. To this criticism, Moon would probably respond that since this perspective is part of dualistic philosophy, it lacks relevance. But in order for the green movement to be inclusive, as Moon himself wishes, should it not build theoretical bridges? Deconstruction of identity could be seen as a tool for psychological emancipation, and analytical discourse might be useful when addressing a particular target audience. Does the estrangement from dualism always imply a closed door to these perspectives?
Bring ideological differences into the open!
Perhaps Moon’s most applicable conclusion for Greens all over the world is that there is a fundamental difference between two types of Greens: ecological modernists and ecological postmodernists. The ecological modernists think of the purpose of Green politics in instrumental and economic terms, and these Greens welcome the possibility for corporations to get rich using Green techniques; whereas the ecological postmodernists wish to put an end not only to dualism, but also to the capitalistic world order.
In the latter group, some are resigned and view adaptation to the system as a deplorable fact of life, while others become disillusioned and leave the party. Both the attitude of adaptation and that of disillusion lead to the preservation of the status quo. In addition, the ideas among the ecological postmodernists differ a great deal, and they are by consequence not successful messengers of Green system criticism. Therefore, Moon urges all Green thinkers to bring ideological differences into the light. Only ideological confrontation can transform the movement in a truly Green direction.
In the eighties, Michael Moon was actively involved in the formation of the Green Party of Sweden and worked as an organizer of their internal education programs. On taking early retirement, he registered as a doctoral student at the Department of Human Ecology at the University of Lund. He presented his thesis in 2008. Moon is now a free-lance researcher, writing on matters at the interface between Ecophilosophy and Green Politics. His book, in English, can be purchased via Cogito’s website, or by sending an email
Angela Aylward works for Cogito, a green Swedish think tank founded by the Green party, but independent from party poltics.